Recently, I got a phone call from an old friend who also happens to be the performing arts chairperson for Mayfest. It seems that the annual deadline for performing artists is bearing down upon us and, once again, everyone has been procrastinating about putting their name in the proverbial hat.
That got me thinking about the festival: what it is, what it's supposed to be and what it could be if everyone stepped up to the plate.
According to the Mayfest website, the festival is "an outdoor tribute to the arts and music that is a family-oriented event created to promote a broader knowledge of and appreciation for arts and humanities among serious, as well as casual art lovers." Yeah, yeah. Blah, blah, blah.
The bottom line is, Mayfest is supposed to be about art -- all kinds of art, in any form, and recognizing the best that Tulsa and Northeast Oklahoma have to offer in every field. And it's supposed to appeal to everybody. That means every body -- from the directors at the Philbrook to the mom who thinks her baby's picture of a butterfly on the refrigerator is the bee's knees.
That's cool and all -- if it is a somewhat lofty goal. Maybe the idea is (or should be) that if we display the best of all styles, in all age groups, then the cream rising to the top will draw attention to itself. It's a nice idea anyway. And by now, after 35 years, a large portion of Tulsa will show up to at least give things a look and throw down a corndog or two.
Hey, I'll admit it. Mayfest is the one time of the year that I succumb to the almighty corndog -- and take advantage of the opportunity to check out a pretty wide cross-section of what Tulsa has to offer. That ranges from paintings and sculpture to street performers (a lost art in itself) and musicians of all styles.
The Big "What If?"
Ah, the music. You knew I'd get to it. This is a music column, is it not? Let me get down to brass tacks and shoot straight.
Yes, Mayfest is a good one-stop shopping event to catch a cross-section of Tulsa's musicians in every genre. Is it really the best we have to offer, though? Sometimes you have to wonder.
The truth of the matter is the Mayfest music line-up is intentionally balanced to represent all interests and styles -- almost to a fault.
By its nature, despite what some may prefer, Mayfest specifically should not be strictly a rock (or country or whatever) festival, but is this truly the best Tulsa has to offer?
Spend a whole day, or just an afternoon, downtown and you'll probably moan at an act or two and think "I surely hope not". And hey, a few misses are acceptable when you hit the target 90-95 percent of the time, but come on... Is it really the best or just the best of who actually applied? The latter is more likely the case.
Let's stop for a minute and think what it would be like if the slate was wiped clean and everything started from scratch: No "givens" or predetermined benefactors of performance times or slots. Sure, there will be a few acts making return appearances, and rightly so, but what if the "filler" acts were replaced by new (or established) performers who really wanted to make an impact with their original music, not just play cover tunes or be a clone of someone else?
Are there really enough good bands to fill three stages over four days and three nights with legitimate music? And not with just rock or blues, but with jazz, folk, country, pop, salsa, polka and anything -- nay, everything -- else?
Why should Tulsa's artists want to play Mayfest? Let's face it: the pay is lousy, you're at the mercy of the weather and you have to deal with ridiculous stage turns and sometimes (yes, I'm being nice) questionable sound engineers or equipment.
That's a legitimate query, so I took it back to Eric Gomez, that Performing Arts chair I mentioned earlier. (You'll have to forgive him if he turns on his political speak here; it's a symptom of the position.)
"I think it would be beneficial to any band when they can put on their resume that they played a festival that draws over 300,000 people in four days" said Gomez.
"Hanson got their start here" he continued. "If they can (begin) here and become huge, why can't anyone else? Mayfest was one of the first places they were able to play. And the year we had Hanson back (2005), the Tulsa Police Department estimated that we had 370,000 in attendance (over the course of the festival)."
OK, maybe becoming "Hanson-huge" is a little naïve and far-reaching, but I guess it's a possibility. Thinking a little more realistically, how about taking a shot at playing to a broader audience than you'll get in any nightclub in town? It never hurt anyone to win a few young kids (or grandmas) over to your corner and build your overall name recognition. My kids still get wound up for the Red Dirt Rangers after seeing them at Mayfest a few years ago.
What Are You Waiting For?
The deadline for submitting performing artist applications was originally set for January 12, but was recently extended to Monday, January 22. It's not hard, there's no application fee and you've got nothing to lose but ten minutes of your time, a demo CDR and your postage.
And how cool would it be to possibly win the opening spot for whatever national act (probably country) that the sponsor decides to pop for this year? You'd get to add that to your resume and maybe even get noticed.
Come on, people. I, for one, would like to see Mayfest show up this year completely revamped, with a whole new list of performers. It could happen, but not if some new people don't step up to the plate. Check your schedules for May 17-20, 2007 and get your apps in.
I'd like to not have to groan more than twice over the weekend this year, but that's up to you. I'll quit preaching now. The ball's in your court.
Performing Arts applications can be downloaded at www.tulsamayfest.org. Follow the tabs for "Artist", then "Performing Artists" for the link to the proper form.
Other Fish Frys
Now that I've given my official "public service address" for Mayfest, it's got me thinking about DFest too. Yes, DFest is accepting applications for the 2007 event as well.
What some people may not realize yet is that you're not just applying for a slot at DFest. Applicants will also be considered for filling three slots at DFest's daytime "Red Gorilla" showcase at SXSW in Austin this March. I can't think of any better reason to apply early. More details and applications can be found at www.dfest.com.
And speaking of SXSW, the music schedule hasn't been announced yet, but this year's keynote speaker is The Who mastermind, Pete Townshend. With more than 1,200 bands on more than 50 stages over 4 nights, SXSW is a dream come true for music junkies of any type.
Think you want to go? UTW's annual essay contest will be coming soon so starting thinking now why you should be our guest correspondent. More details will be revealed shortly.
Around the Town
Well, well... It looks like T-Town has slept off its New Year's hangover and is waking back up. The Cain's is springing back into action after a holiday break and the rest of our local clubs and bands are roaring back to life.
There are a ton of shows coming up, especially over the weekend, so get out there and check into your favorite club or check out something new. Either way, there's plenty to choose form this weekend. On to the highlights:
The Cain's Ballroom kicks off the weekend and inaugurates 2007 on Friday, January 12 with He Wears Black (a Johnny Cash tribute). Tuff Profit opens the show and tickets are $24 and $29 at the door.
There are also a couple of good pop-rock combos playing downtown on Friday night. The lesser known and more indie-leaning one, Math Lab, will be at the Soundpony. The more recognized, if slightly confused group, Admiral Twin (there are three of them, right?) will be at Arnie's. Cheap cover. Good music. Cold beer. What's not to like at either bar?
The show for the all-ages crowd that's looking for something more, ehemm..., "upbeat" on Friday, January 12, is at The Pinkeye. Four bands for $8 and the show starts at 7pm with Optimistic to a Fault, The Armor Agenda, System Overload, and Surcease Angels. Rawk on!
Saturday night is even busier. Indie rockers can converge on Main Street and decide between Nude Beach at The Soundpony or a show at the Mooch and Burn. M&B's bill includes Jucifer, Jor-Dan, Tugnut and School Girl Knife Fight. No word on the cover as of press time, but you know its going to be $6 or less and it's a chance to check out one of Tulsa's coolest new rooms.
Just a little farther up the street The Cain's hosts Bowling For Soup on January 13. Tickets are $16 in advance, $18 at the door and Melee, Over It and Quietdrive will open the show at 8pm.
On the flip-side of town The Otherside is hosting a completely different kind of party with Volume Tulsa 2007. Volume is a combination fashion show and dance party. Doors open at 8pm with the runway fashion show beginning at 9pm, with live music from Hero Factor and Darel Jr. Afterwards, the party continues until 2am with DJ Moody spinning the discs. Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door with proceeds going to the American Cancer Society.
Pick of the Week
As cool as any of those shows may sound, I'll bet my whole stack of chips on The Derailers at Mercury Lounge on Saturday Night, January 13. Their latest CD, Soldiers of Love, was one of my favorite discs of 2006 -- easily in my "Top 5" last year.
What's to crow about? How 'bout a combination of Austin swagger, hardcore honky-tonk, Sun Records boogie and Stax/Volt soul? I don't really care for the "alt-country" tag, so I'll just call it the perfect marriage between classic country, vintage rock & roll and a modern attitude.
Anyone who caught them when they stopped through town last July knows what's coming. If you missed them last time, you've used your mulligan. Miss them again and you qualify for stoning (the old-fashioned, biblical, "We throw rocks at you" kind of stoning) at the corner of 18th and Boston.
Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Get there early and swill a few cold ones while you chill out in the booths that they copped from the old Metro Diner until the band goes on at 10pm. You've been told. If you miss the coolest show of the month, don't blame me.
Things slow down a bit as we get out of the weekend, but that's nothing new in Tulsa. The Soundpony keeps things going on Sunday, January 14, with Anvil Salute before we face the work week.
On Tuesday, January 16, Wednesday 13 (formerly of Murderdolls) is at The Pinkeye for an "up close and personal" show with Vains of Jenna. Show up at 7pm with $10 in hand if gothic-punk-metal is your thing.
The next night, January 17, G Love and Special Sauce returns to the Cain's Ballroom with Matt Costa opening the show. G Love always does well here in T-Town, but Costa just might steal the spotlight. He's opened shows for his buddy Jack Johnson and somehow managed to jack a spot on every major festival in 2006, from Bonnaroo to Coachella to Lollapalooza. Tickets are $20 advance or $24 day of and doors open at 7pm.
Also on Wednesday night, The Pearls continue their standing, weekly gig at The Continental. This week's episode includes a semi-acoustic appearance by RadioRadio, making it a great night to skip CSI.
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